08 November 2009

Customary Land Rights - A lesson from Indonesia

ILO pushes govt on customary land rights The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Wed, 10/28/2009 10:27 PM | National The government must ratify Convention No. 169/1989 on Indigenous and Tribal People, to put an end to frequent conflicts between customary communities and corporations regarding land use, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and an alliance of indigenous people said Wednesday.

A senior specialist on international labor standards from ILO New Delhi, Coen Kompier, said the convention provided broad principles for the government to regulate the rights of ownership and possession over lands traditionally occupied by customary communities.

Every year conflicts arise across Indonesia between members of customary communities and corporations occupying their territory with government concessions. In some cases such conflicts have resulted in the criminalization or deaths of community members.

Currently there is no law regulating the land rights of customary communities. Concessions, on the other hand, are regulated in several laws, including the 2009 Mining Law and the 1999 Forestry Law.

By ratifying the ILO convention, the government would prevent many such conflicts, misunderstanding and discrimination, Kompier said.

“The convention can help to promote peaceful and sustainable development,” he told the Post on the sidelines of a workshop on the convention.

Under the ILO convention, removing customary communities from their territories can only be conducted under exceptional circumstances that satisfy specific criteria.

“The main principle is that the people cannot be removed from their land,” Kompier said.

17 October 2009

President Horta Cleans Up Vendors' Shacks: Killing the Peoples' Income

Suara Timor Lorosae 17 October 2009 Dili - President of the Republic Jose Ramos Horta, descended with the police task force last Friday (16/10) to tear down or clean up directly the community of suco Metiaut’s small shacks that had been erected on the beachfront.

The Nobel Peace Laureate decided to go and tear down small vendors’ shacks giving the reason that it was to conserve the environment in that area. Because of the large presence of small shacks trading there, the environment on the beachfront is certainly affected, these were cleaned up through the government’s general clean program. The activity of these small vendors is said to damage the environment with the discarding of rubbish on the beachfront.

The population who became the victims of this clean up consider the President of the Republic’s brutal tendencies to effectively be killing their income earning activities, because the small shacks they erected in order to earn a living through grilling of stays and fish.

“Today the President of the Republic himself ordered that these shacks be torn down without informing us the owners, the PR himself personally pushed our shacks down to the ground,” said Celestino Gama to journalists.

He considered this conduct of PR Horta in directly tearing down the shacks as the actions of a dictator, because these actions did not consider the community. “ I consider this conduct as being a dictatorship and not a democracy. At least inform us so that we have the chance to take them down, because we bought the materials to build them, we did not get them for free at the shops,” Celestino said.

As a law abiding citizen, Celestino says he respected the decision of the President to tear down the shacks, but they should have given prior notice and not just descend abruptly using physical force. “What sort of attitude is this?” he added.

This was the same with Domingos da Silva, (vendor) who asked the government to move on the large restaurants in the Metiaut area who also discard rubbish onto the beachfront. “We are saddened because the PR only saw fit to come and tear down our shacks, but not the large restaurants on the beachfront,” he said.


At the same location, the Head of the Suco Metiaut, Jacob Xavier lamented the actions of PR Horta in descending personally with the police to tear down the peoples’ shacks. PR Horta’s actions can have the effect of killing the small people who earn a livelihood by trading or grilling satays.

“I see PR Horta’s decision as being like he had a dream, because all of a sudden he decided to come and kill off the small peoples’ livelihoods, “ he lamented.

He asked the state to assist the small peoples’ livelihoods. When you dream up the idea to close off the peoples’ livelihoods in one area they should also look for alternatives, not just tear down and destroy. “This is just killing the people,” he stressed.

He said it is the community of Metiaut which cleans up the rubbish on the beachfront, despite the rubbish not being only theirs. “Just don’t blame us,” Jacob said.

Domingos da Costa Xavier asked the government to first prepare an alternative place for the community before taking the actions to tear down. “If they only tear down like this, where will the small people find livelihoods?” he asked.

STL observed that after PR Horta tore down their shacks, the population removed their timber and tin materials to their homes. (ends)

24 September 2009

Tempo Semanal: Timor-Leste Minister of Justice Overrides Tribunal to Modify City Cafe

Dili, Tempo Semanal 21 September 2009 Edition 157 Minister of Justice Overrides Tribunal to Modify City Café - Institutionally, the Ministry of Justice (MJ) and its branch, the National Directorate for Land and Property Registration has enough power to take notifications of evictions to all citizens who occupy the state's assets (for example, a house).

But according to legislation number 1/2003 (chapter three article seven), the MJ does not have power to evict City Café's owners because it is not the state's property.

According to decree 32/2008, the MJ's eviction is worthless.

Despite this, the MJ has used its institutional power to evict Mrs Rita Fatima Lopes Tsan da Costa from City Café. The aggravation this caused has led to a case being lodged with the Dili District Tribunal to confirm the rights of Timor-Leste's citizens who receive such notifications.

The DNTPSC sent the notice of eviction (number 522/272-473) on 29 April 2009 at the MJ's direction, which stated Mrs Fatima had not been successful in her attempts to retain the establishment.

Mrs Fatima was initially asked to voluntarily vacate the premises according to an established schedule, but was eventually forced from City Café through orders from the MJ.

Polemics such as this are also occurring to current occupants of Hotel Tourismo, according to a Letter of Notification Process (number 522/688-875) from the DNTPSC on 10 August 2009 that has asked occupants to vacate the hotel for a period of 30 days from that date.

Based on documents which Tempo Semanal has acquired, on 2 January 2009, the MJ­through DNTPSC­gave final notification to City Café's occupants to vacate the premises in four days, but they did not want to because they were waiting for a decision from the Tribunal.

Although the Tribunal is yet to make a decision on the case, on 8 June the DNTPSC and a security institution forced Mrs Fatima from City Café.

This attitude shows that the Minister of Justice has used her power through DNTPSC to force occupants from this establishment. A submission to the Tribunal by the legal representative for the City Café building's tenants, Rita Fatima and Ted Lay, stated the MJ has contradicted Article 10 (32/2008, points 1-3) and Article 11 (1/2003, points 1-7) of the Civil Code.

According to chapter three, article 7 of law 1/2003 which regulates administrative evictions, the MJ doesn't have competence to conduct evictions in this way, because City Café was not property of the state; as such, the eviction is based on false terms.

The Minister of Justice's letter of eviction clearly states that flats or houses such as these are private property – on what grounds then did the Minister of Justice force City Café's owners from their premises?

This eviction has also not followed appropriate process because the DNTPSC gave only four days' notification before it required the tenants to vacate the premises, alluding to a token-esque timeframe to comply with regulations.

City Café's Tribunal submission states, "Mr Lay Min Ing notified the interior Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento, on 14/11/2003, that the former Minister of Justice declared that, on 03/02/2003, this is the private property of Lay Min Ing".

"For these reasons, on 31/03/2005, the DNTPSC through its interim director Horacio da Silva, gave notice to City Café's occupants that the Government will not continue its contract because it recognises this as private property; the premises occupants must recognise their contract of payment with the owner," it continued.

From 2005, City Café's tenants commenced a skewed contract with the building's owner, Lay Min Ing through his son, Bobby Lay, to negotiate rent prices, but did not manage to reach a clear agreement.

"Because a clear agreement has not been reached about the price to be paid, Bobby Lay has taken civil action at Dili District Tribunal, and the Tribunal has already taken note of these matters," said Rita Fatima regarding the matter.

This submission also declared that until now, the Tribunal has not passed judgement on this case; so why did the Minister of Justice evict City Café's tenants? The facts state that the Minister of Justice's behavior does not set a good example for the future, because this is an example of discrimination against the land process and all private residences which currently are registered with the Tribunal.

In addition to this, Article 26 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste gives all people the freedom to ask a tribunal to protect and defend their rights and legal positions, but the MJ has tried to use its power to contravene the judicial process and oppress the small people.

On 31 August 2009, Rita Fatima delivered a letter to Antonia Verdial Sousa, director of DNTPSC, attempting to prolong the DNTPSC's decision to renovate City Café on grounds that the Tribunal had not yet made a judgement; yet the DNTPSC continued with its plans to renovate the premises, stating that the decision was that of its owner, Bobby Lay. Bobby Lay had already written a contract with a man from Sagres Hotel who stated his name is Eduardo, but until now there has not been a response from DNTPSC regarding this.

In response to questions on this topic, Rita Fatima last week informed Tempo Semanal that those in her local area, Bairru dos Grilos, were very sad at the Minister of Justice's decision, which does not have a sound legal basis. According to Rita Fatima, the Government stopped collecting tax from City Café as a business because it recognised the building as private property, and consequently left rent negotiations to the owner and tenant.

"We've paid tax to the State for almost two years at a rate of US$503.00 per month. The Government may not say that we've not paid tax because we have receipts from [bank] Kaixa Jeral de Depozitu," stated Rita Fatima. She also believes that Bobby Lay has taken up the case at Dili District Tribunal because he was unsuccessful in increasing the rent charged to City Café.

"We, the occupants, will continue to wait for a decision from the Tribunal, but why has the Minister of Justice forced us out?" she continued.

"Bobby Lay recently declared that this property is his father's (Lay Min Ing), so we made a contract with them, but until now I've only heard that this is the property of Ted Lay's father. We stopped the contract with Bobby Lay because Ted Lay is my business partner," she explained.

Although Bobby Lay has lodged the case with the Tribunal, based on an official bulletin from during the Portuguese occupation, the property which pertains to City Café is owned by Ted Lay's father.

"The letter of eviction that was sent to us isn't from the Tribunal, but from the Minister of Justice because the Tribunal hasn't yet reached any decision," said Mrs Fatima.

"The [former] Minister of Justice Domingos Sarmento recognised that the property we refer to is that of Bobby Lay's father, and we ask that they give back the money which we've used to restore the building. Only then will we leave, but because they don't want to, we won't leave; as a result, they've taken this case to the Tribunal," said Mrs Fatima.

"Although we already have the letter of eviction from the MJ, we continue to hope for a decision from the Tribunal, because this case has already been registered with the Tribunal," finished Mrs Fatima.

Mrs Fatima has extended her willingness to reply with the Tribunal, and also is ready to present her testimony when it calls.

"If we win at the Tribunal, we'll certainly demand that Bobby Lay pays back our name," claimed Rita Fatima.

In other areas, the former Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento, conveyed in his house to Tempo Semanal that, "The MJ has definitely stopped the the contract with Rita Fatima because Bobby Lay claimed that the property is that of his father, Lay Min Ing, and has asked to hand over the property to its owner; but they have taken this case to the Tribunal because she doesn't want to".

"According to my comprehension, the eviction notice may only apply to State property, not to private property; because of this one should ask the Minister of Justice to clarify the reasons and legal base for her wanting to issue this notice," said Mr Sarmento.

The former Minister of Justice followed that this case is pending at the Tribunal which has not yet come to a final decision, but asked why the Minister of Justice delivered the eviction notice.

Last Wednesday (09/09/09) at 3:40pm, a Tempo Semanal journalist visited the DNTPSC's office to ask clarification about the City Café case which has thus far become polemic – yet the director, Antonio Verdial de Sousa did not want to give in-depth commentary about this issue. With an angry face and loud voice he told that things the DNTPSC does indeed follow the law and, because of this, the DNTPSC continues to stand strong in its principles.

According to Verdial, this case at the Tribunal is a separate matter and that it should definitely not be mixed with any others: "But those who aren't satisfied with this decision may deliver a case through tribunal processes," he challenged.

After hearing the DNTPSC director's words, the Tempo Semanal journalist tried to record them, but the director shouted to turn off his recorder.

Despite this, the Tempo Semanal journalist continued his attempts to ask about the documents delivered by Rita Fatima last Friday, but the DNTPSC director said it was not his area to deal with at all and that he'd deliver them to the Minister of Justice.

Last Thursday (10/09/09) a Tempo Semanal journalist inquired with a judge at the Dili District Tribunal about this case, who wished to remain anonymous. He smiled as he said that some prats of the Minister of Justice's work were done correctly, but the Tribunal will see to it that things follow the law.

This Tempo Semanal journalist consequently wished to confirm the situation from Bobby Lay's point of view, so last Thursday afternoon (09/09/09) he visited him at his workplace in Colmera, but a colleague said Bobby had left for Singapore. According to Mr Eduardo from Sagres, they do not have anything to do with the problems of City Café case at the Dili District Tribunal.

"We commenced rehabilitating the hotel based on the five-year agreement which we made with the landlord, but when a problem arises it is up to them to resolve it, not us," said Eduardo from Hotel Sagres in Pante Kelapa.

He added that if the rehabilitation process was to end on schedule, the hotel would commence operation on 1 October 2009. "When I received an email from Bobby that said DNTPSC has already granted the property to him, I felt that there wasn't a problem," he said.

Mr Eduardo said, "There were accusations that before the tenants intended to leave the premises, they destroyed part of the facilities inside; but in a telephone conversation on 12 September 2009, Rita Fatima informed Tempo Semanal that these accusations are not true".(ts)

Posted by TEMPO SEMANAL at 02:36


Image added by ETLJB: City Cafe, Dili, East Timor

15 August 2009

East Timor Land Network: Women Left Out Of Consultation on Draft Land Law

Ainaro District: Only one woman gets to speak on draft Land Law 13 August, 2009 - On 30th July the Minister of Justice led a public meeting on the draft Land Law in Ainaro. The Land Network’s monitoring reveals that only 1 female participant spoke in the Ainaro public consultation.

Jenito Santana from the Land Network observes that the government’s public consultation is closing the door to women across all districts. "What we see so far is that at most 6 female participants get the chance to speak at government meetings on the draft Land Law in the districts. This was even the case in Manatuto where the matrilineal system means that many women are landowners."

"In Baucau, a district with a population of about 110,000 people, only 2 women had the opportunity to ask a question or make a comment. That’s one voice for about 25,000 women…"

In June the Land Network identified a list of measures to facilitate women, and other vulnerable groups, to contribute to the public consultation. So far many of these measures are not met. "We want women, as well as broad range of members of the community to provide their ideas and thoughts into this draft Land Law. We want to see a law that best considers the needs and situation of all people in Timor-Leste."

It is not just women who are left out. Jenito also notes that young people’s attendance at meetings is very low and few get the chance to speak.

"Communities need time to digest the draft Land Law. To understand it, discuss it and share their ideas. We hope the Minister will follow through on her promise to extend the public consultation process, particularly to allow women, vulnerable people and people in rural areas to have their say."

Participants had 60 minutes to speak at the Ainaro consultation. They spoke about:

· land occupations

· the importance of traditional land tenure

· the compatibility of women’s land rights with local culture

· land ownership disputes between the State and the community (via article 26)

· how taxes would effect poor people

· how the government would implement making false statements as a crime.

For further information and public comment please contact Shona Hawkes from the Rede ba Rai (Land Network) at +670 730 2439 or email shona@laohamutuk.org
Distritu Ainaro: Feto ida de’it hetan oportunidade atu koalia kona-ba ezbozu Lei ba Rai 13 Agostu, 2009

Loron 30 Julhu, Ministra Justisa loke enkontru publiku kona-ba ezbozu Lei ba Rai iha Ainaro. Monitoring husi Rede ba Rai hatete katak feto ida de’it mak iha oportunitunidade atu koalia nu’udar partisipante iha konsultasaun públiku iha Ainaro.

Jenito Santana husi Rede ba Rai haree katak to'o agora governo-nia konsultasaun públiku la loke ba feto. "To'o agora, mesmu partisipante-feto nain 6 iha oportunidade atu koalia iha enkontru ida-idak kona-ba ezbozu Lei ba Rai iha distritu-sira. Maski iha sistema matrilineal iha Manatuto no feto barak sai rai-nain, feto nain 6 de'it mak koalia."

Iha fulan Junhu, Rede ba Rai prepara lista ba aktividades katak bele fasilita feto, no group seluk kbit-laek-nia knaar iha konsultasaun públiku. To'o agora, konsultasaun seidauk implementa aktividades barak husi lista ne'e. "Ami hein katak feto, no ema barak husi komunidade, bele fahe sira-nia ideas no hanoin kona-ba esbosu Lei ba Rai. Ami hakarak lei ida ne’ebé fó konsiderasaun ba nesidade ka situasaun ba ema hotu iha Timor-Leste."

"Iha distritu Baucau ho populasaun 110,000 resin, feto nain 2 de'it mak hetan oportunidade atu husu pergunta ka fo komentariu. Konsultasaun rona lian ida, husi kada feto nain 25,000..."

Ne'e la'os feto de'it ne’ebé ladun partisipa iha enkontru publiku. Pedro mos haree katak ema klosan ladun tuir enkontru no la bele koalia iha enkontru se sira ba.

"Komunidade sira presiza tempu atu kompriende ezbozu Lei ba Rai. Atu kompriende kontuidu, atu diskuti, atu fahe ideas. Ami hein katak Ministra atu implementa ninia promesa atu prolongar prosesu konsultasaun publiku, liu-liu atu loke oportunidade ba ema kbit-laek no ema iha nivel Sucu atu partisipa."

Iha konsultasaun Ainaro, partisipante-sira hetan minutes 60 atu koali. Sira koalia kona-ba :

· Okupasaun rai

· Tanba sa sistema tradisaunal importante

· Se rai komunidade sai rai Estadu (liu husi artigu 26)

· Se direitu ba rai kombatibal ho kultura lokal

· Disputa kona-ba rai entra Estadu no komunidade

· Oinsa taxa nia impaktu baema ki’ak

· Oinsa governo bele implementa statement falsu hanesan krime

Atu hetan informasaun tan ka halo intrevista bele kontaktu ba Jenito Santana husi Rede ba Rai ho numerú kontaktu +670 734 2939 ka email redebarai@gmail.com

East Timor Land Law Program 2


September 2004–March 2006

Indonesia’s withdrawal from East Timor in 1999 set the stage for reconciling conflicting land tenure and property rights established during different government regimes, often overlaid on customary rights or in direct contradiction to rights granted by other regimes. Initializing a formal system for reconciling conflicting claims and legally recognizing clear rights to property is both a challenge and a cornerstone for stability, security, and equitable economic growth.

Land is inherent in almost all economic development issues in East Timor. Lack of possible ownership or leasing options deters foreign and domestic investment: banks do not want to provide loans without immovable property collateral, and farmers do not want to invest their money or “sweat equity” without having legally protected rights to the land. Land issues are also important to conflict mitigation, anti-corruption, democracy, governance, and the rule of law.

In May 2003, USAID contracted ARD, under the BASIS IQC, to initiate and administer the Land Law Project (LLP) with the Ministry of Justice and the National University. LLP was designed to provide informed policy recommendations and support the development and implementation of transparent and representative land laws. In September 2004, USAID contracted ARD under the RAISE IQC to extend LLP for additional land research and support to related legislative development, while strengthening institutional capacity for land law implementation and administration.

The ARD team provided technical assistance and training to the University while conducting relevant academic research related to land tenure and property rights. The research results provided important findings to engage both public and private sector stakeholders in dialogue through a public information and education campaign, and to guide the land legislation agenda. In parallel, the ARD team provided technical assistance and training to the Ministry of Justice National Directorate of Land and Property responsible for implementation and administration of land legislation.

ARD supported the crafting of draft land laws and regulations including:

* Juridical Regime of Immovable Property;
* Decree-law to establish a committee on illegal constructions and informal settlements; and
* Ministerial decrees on the Organic Law of the National Directorate of Land and Property (DNTP), the Lease Adjudication Process, DNTP Administrative Fees, the Standardization of State Property Leases, and State Property Allocation to other Government Agencies.

The ARD team facilitated the debate and actual promulgation of key legislation on Leasing and Allocation of State Property of Private Domain (December 2004) and Leasing between Private Individuals (May 2005).

The ARD team’s research reports included:

Non-customary Primary Industrial Land Survey: Landholdings and Management Considerations

Land Administration in East Timor–Functions and Responsibilities: Lessons Learned from Albania, Mozambique, and Thailand

When the Ancestors Need Help: Renewable Natural Resources and Institutional Design in Contemporary East Timor

2005 Dili Rental and Valuation Report

Land Valuation and Taxation Policy for Timor-Leste

Land Expropriation Policy Suitable for Timor-Leste: Economic Considerations

Considerations for Economic Zones and the Case of Timor-Leste

ARD developed, designed, and documented with DNTP counterparts a National Land Registration and Titling Plan and Land Registration Manual. ARD specialists mentored local staff and institutionalized procedures to administer leases of government residential properties. Leases of a nominal $10 a month generated about $10,000 in new income per month while legitimizing occupancy.

ARD developed and delivered training to over 50 university faculty and students to analyze the economic feasibility of agricultural projects, and on land taxation, expropriation policy, and industrial zoning. The Field Research Skills training course for 12 faculty, 21 students, and 2 DNTP personnel covered research methods, research ethics, interview techniques, simulated interview exercises, GPS applications, and first aid (research teams traveled to remote, isolated, and hazardous areas). ARD provided database design and development training to university and DNTP personnel, preparing several specific applications to support research and establish an electronic library on land tenure and property rights at the university.

ARD developed quadri-lingual glossaries (in English, Tetun, Portuguese, and Indonesian) on legal terminology regarding land, economics, and agriculture.

For more information, click here to access the project brochure in PDF format.

Source: http://www.ardinc.com/projects/detail_region.php?id=14

Customary Land Tenure Systems - An Insight from the Solomon Islands

TLLLPIC 15 August 2009 DILI - The Government of East Timor is conducting public consultations on a draft land law that will regulate, amongst other things, community land in East Timor.

The draft has been criticised as inadequate to protect the land rights of customary communities in East Timor because it denies juridical status to the customary land tenure systems and the individualised customary land rights that are created in those systems.

Access to and the exploitation of community land will be decided by the Government and there is no clear provision on who obtains the benefits of any use of community land by outsiders - the government or the community itself.

Towards encouraging debate on the issue of customary land tenure systems, TLLLPIC is researching and compiling information on these land tenure systems in other countries as a comparative study source.

In the report below, some of the experience of customary land tenure in the Solomon Islands, where 80% of the land is customary land.
Solomon Times Online 25 August 2008 Customary Land Tenure System an Obstacle to Development - The Customary Land Tenure System is again seen as a constraint to the Government's National Rice Programme.

This was revealed when the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Hon. Selwyn Riumana delivered a statement on Rice prior to the passing of the 2008 Supplementary Bill.

Hon. Riumana said the CNURA Government is serious about addressing the production of rice however the land tenure system has delayed the smooth implementation of the programmes.

"Customary land, which make up 80 percent of our total land mass in this country remains outside the formal legal system and is recognized as one of the main constrains hindering rice cultivation," says Hon. Riumana.

He stated that to address this limitation; the government is working very closely with communities, farmers and the resource owners to find ways and means to grow rice.

"The determination of the CNURA Government to grow rice given the current soaring prices has enabled the Ministry to provide assistance to 14 participating communities, groups and villages," reveals Hon. Riumana.

The Leader of Opposition, Hon Manasseh Sogavare questioned Hon. Riumana on why the price of locally grown rice is still quite expensive.

In reply, Minister Riumana said the price of locally grown rice in the rural area is quite low and people who bought the products are happy with the cost.

80% of the Solomon Island's Land are customary owned, making it hard for the Government to make decisions on development.

11 August 2009

East Timor Draft Land Law public consultations: Minister Lobato continues charade

Timor-Leste Land Network: Land Law consultation in Manufahi Manufahi District: 61 minutes not enough to consult on draft Land Law 7 August, 2009 - On 23rd July the Minister of Justice led a public meeting on the draft Land Law in Same, Manufahi. The Minister again said that she would extend the public consultation until November. She also announced that the government would consult with some sucos, and that she would hold a national workshop on the Land Law.

"The Land Network is happy that the Minister is hearing people's concerns about the consultation process. But is she going to follow through on her promises?" asked José Amaral, Advocacy Officer for the Timor-Leste NGO Forum.

"If the Minister seriously wants to extend the public consultation she should announce this nationally. It's now almost two weeks since her announcement and we’ve heard nothing from the Ministry."

The date of the Manufahi consultation moved several times and fell on the same day as a large NGO organized meeting. Many people therefore couldn't participate in the Land Law meeting. Participants asked questions on how the law would affect land occupied by Indonesia, people forceably removed to Atauro, land sales, compensation, church and traditional land.

"Although we are happy to see more discussion on land issues, the Same meeting raised few constructive comments on how to improve the law," said Inês Martins of the Land Network.

"This is because people have only 61 minutes to speak, they haven't seen and don't understand the law, and the meeting is organized at the last minute. Also, because the Minister alone replies to all questions or comments on the law she often provides information that is misleading or wrong."

"Should communities or the State get the money from renting community land? Should 100% foreign owned companies have the right to own land? Should dispute boards be based in Dili, or should they reach the districts? What is the fairest way to resolve land disputes? How can we decide the value of compensation if there is no formal land market? ― These are all issues in the draft Land Law that should be discussed in the consultation."

For further information and public comment please contact Shona Hawkes from the Rede ba Rai (Land Network) at +670 730 2439 or email shona@laohamutuk.org.
Image added by TLLLPIC: Uma lulik, Timor-Leste

09 August 2009

On the Origins of Property – Ownership

There is no point on which theoretical speculations have been more completely falsified than the question of property. The suggestion that ownership arose when men began to respect the rights of the first occupier of what had previously been appropriated by no one is curiously the reverse of the truth.

When ownership if first recognized, it is not ownership by individuals, but ownership by groups – the family, the village or the commune, the tribe or the clan.

Individual property arose from the breaking up of such groups, and the distribution of the rights of the whole among the members.

In some cases this process was hastened by wars. There are distinct traces that individual property was pre-eminently that which the warrior had seized as the spoil of victory; among the Romans, the spear was the highest symbol of property.

But the student of Roman law will learn nothing of this widespread primeval communism directly from the works of the Roman jurists. From the earliest time of which we have a record, the institution of private property was completely developed in Rome, and hence the singular influence it has exerted on the destinies of European nations.

From Introduction to Roman Law Hunter W. A. Revised by Lawson F. H. Ninth Ed Sweet & Maxwell 1934

04 August 2009

East Timor Land Network: Justice Minister Lobato extends draft land law consultations

More time for the Land Law? Promises & Comments from Viqueque 3 August, 2009 - On July 21, the Justice Minister, Lucia Lobato visited Viqueque for a public meeting on the draft Land Law. The Minister also announced she would extend the public consultation process until November 2009.

"We are very excited that the Minister announced an extension to the public consultation," said Pedro Viera, from the Land Network. "This would help increase community awareness and feedback. However, we are not sure if the Minister intends to follow-through on this promise. If she doesn't, this will create confusion."

Viqueque participants noted that the public meeting was too brief, with only just over 1 hour for participants to speak.

"In Viqueque there is a lot of conflict over land. One hour isn't anywhere near enough to get meaningful comment on how the Land Law can address this".

Participants also asked for Suco level consultation on the draft Land Law, and raised issues including community land, taxes for large land owners and how community land boundaries would be defined.

However, Ines Martins of the Land Network notes, "under the draft Land Law communities are not able to make decisions on how outsiders – such as the State or foreign companies use their land. The State will make these decisions, with no obligation to listen to communities. It is not even clear who gets money from leasing community land to outsiders – the community or the State?"

"Because people are not fully aware of what’s in the draft land law, the consultation is not exploring issues like this. This is why we need a longer consultation."

For further information and public comment please contact Shona Hawkes from the Land Network at +670 730 7800 or email shona@laohamutuk.org.

Iha tempu tan ba Lei ba Rai? Promesa no komentariú husi Viqueque 3 Agostu, 2009

Loron 21, Julhu, Ministra ba Justisa, Lucia Lobato vizita ba distritu Viqueque atu halo enkontru públiku kona-ba ezbozu Lei ba Rai. Ministra mos fo anunsio katak nia atu prolonga tempu ba konsultasaun públiku to’o Novembru 2009.

"Ami kontente tebes katak Ministra dehan nia atu prolonga tan tempu konsultasaun" dehan Pedro Viera, husi Rede ba Rai. "Prolonga konsultasaun bele ajuda komunidade, sira bele kompriende lei kona-ba lei ne’e no fahe sira-nia hakarak. Maibe, ami seidauk klaru se Ministra atu implementa promesa ne’e. Se lae, ne’e bele hamosu konfusaun."

Partisipantes Viqueque dehan katak enkontru públiku badak-los, ho horas ida resin de’it ba sira atu koalia.

"Iha Viqueque iha konflitu barak kona-ba rai. Horas ida de’it ba tempu la to’o atu hetan hanoin ne’ebé klean oinsa Lei ba Rai bele haree asuntu ne’e."

Partisipante-sira mós husu iha konsultasaun kona-ba lei iha nivél Suco, no koalia kona-ba asuntu rai komunidade, taxa ba rai bo’ot no oinsa bele haree baliza ba area komunidade.

Ines Martins husi Rede ba Rai mós hateten,"Iha ezbozu Lei ba Rai komunidade la iha direitu atu foti desisaun kona-ba ema husi liur – hanesan Estadu ka kompania malae, bele uja sira-nia rai. Estadu mak foti desisaun ne’e, maibe la iha obrigasaun atu rona komunidade-nia lian. Ne’e mós seidauk klaru osan husi aluga rai komunidade ba ne’ebé – ne’e komunidade ka Estadu mak simu?"

"Tanba ema seidauk hatene saida mak iha ezbozu Lei ba Rai, asuntu hanesan ne’e seidauk hatama. Tan ne’e tenke prolonga konsultasaun."

Atu hetan informasaun tan ka halo intrevista bele kontaktu ba Pedro Viera husi Rede ba Rai ho numerú kontaktu +670 726 9038 ka email redebarai@gmail.com

Image added by ETLJB: Who will own Timor-Leste?

31 July 2009

The Causes of the East Timor 2006 Crisis - Role of Land and Property

Extract from 2007 ETLJ 2 Ethnicity, Violence, & Land and Property Disputes in Timor-Leste by Andrew Harrington

Proximate Causes

Specific Role of Land and Property in Conflict
While perceived injustice regarding land and property (meaning real, immovable property, e.g. housing) can be very dangerous, it becomes even more so when merged with issues unrelated to land.[56] Horizontal inequality between kaladi and firaku is an important proximate cause in the recent conflict in Timor-Leste. Reiterating Stewart’s view, “the existence of severe inequalities between culturally defined groups” and “where there are such inequalities in resource access and outcomes, coinciding with cultural differences, culture can become a powerful mobilising agent that can lead to a range of political disturbances.”[57]

Land and Property Repercussions from 1999[58]
Immediately following the 1999 referendum, pro-autonomy militias and the Indonesian Military (TNI) pushed or forced hundreds of thousands of Timorese out of Dili and into West Timor as refugees.

After violence wound down, those who had not been forced into West Timor returned to Dili first. For a variety of reasons (e.g. time and relative distance from the city- discussed further below) the first people back were mainly firaku. Upon arrival, they found the scorched earth campaign had left housing particularly hard-hit; the militia had “significantly damaged” up to 30% of houses in Dili, while an estimated 80% of housing across Timor-Leste as a whole was rendered uninhabitable.[59] Housing was in short supply.

Those returnees who arrived in Dili first occupied various lands and properties. These included former Indonesian State properties, private residences, local militia members’ houses, and virtually any intact housing belonging to Timorese who had fled and yet to return.[60] However, the National Land Agency (NLA - Badan Pertanahan Nasional) was among the first destroyed, the records were taken onto the street, soaked with petrol, and burned.[61] This meant many formal title records destroyed, either in the NLA itself or by fire in houses where Timorese left when they fled. This left virtually formal functioning way to handle competing land claims. Since there was no formal system to speak of, incoming Timorese took the path of least resistance and simply ignored the formal regime.[62]For many of those arriving from outside Dili, a formal land system may have been alien given their lack of experience with it.[63]

The situation in Dili was made worse by returning refugees from West Timor and others displaced to the rest of Timor-Leste.[64] The UNHCR and IOM were mandated to plan and implement the return process, but neither organization took complete control over the process, perhaps due to overlapping mandates. Neither agency developed policy stating precisely where returnees would ultimately return; many were therefore returned where they requested, not to where they actually originated. Accordingly, the majority of returnees were sent to Dili, as requested.[65] Transit camps were established, but after spending some time there, returnees were then expected to find their own housing or use the shelter kits given to them (ironically brought from Indonesia).[66] As the only part of the country with economic activity, many returnees remained in Dili, opting not to return to their home districts (where intact housing may not have existed). Indirectly, IOM and UNHCR repatriation activities helped concentrate approximately 53,000 returnees in Dili.[67] Not to disparage either organization, but at the time, housing was not considered a key concern. Return and repatriation were the key aims while the situation was complicated by attacks on ex-militia members by communities, complicated further by militia attacks resulting in the death of three UNHCR workers in Atambua, West Timor.[68] There has since been a movement within the UNHCR to recognize housing and restitution as key issues to ensure sustainable and successful returns, enshrined in the Pinheiro Principles.[69]
Illegal occupation was extremely widespread. The promulgation of Law No 1/2003 required regularization of occupations in exchange for leases with the DNTP and guaranteed continued occupation. Approximately 6000 ‘illegal’ occupants submitted applications to the DNTP for regularization.[73] An estimated 50 percent of housing in Dili was occupied illegally.[74]

Considering the tradition-based land system which persists in some form today in Dili, many Timorese may not have filed any claim to their property. A lack of formal education and experience with the formal system means many Timorese simply may not have known why or how to file a claim. Under the traditional system,[75] land transactions are not registered with the formal system but regulated through local political and ritual authorities. Only if the traditional understanding of ownership is challenged through competing systems (Portuguese or Indonesian titling), or if there is disagreement over the traditional order – official authorities may be involved. The Chefe de Aldeia and the Chefe de Suco – both political authorities that mediate between customary and official system – are important actors. However, if they cannot restore calm, the conflicting parties generally address higher level official administration, such as the district administration’s land and property officers, legal aid organisations or the formal judiciary.[76]

Many Timorese may therefore consider themselves rightful owner of that property according to the customary land system, but they have no formal title. Accordingly, the extent of illegal occupations in Dili could be significantly greater than suspected.[77] Read more.....
East Timor Law Journal Towards the rule of law in Timor-Leste!

21 July 2009

Draft land law provisions on land rights for foreigners in East Timor will smother development

ETLJB 21 July 2009 SYDNEY - In a press release dated 20 July 2009, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor stated that '[t]he Gusmao–led AMP government’s consultation process on the draft land law is woefully inadequate and the law itself would open the door to foreign ownership and control of land.

Fretilin further stated that '[a]ccording to the draft, a company wishing to own land in Timor-Leste only needs to have its head office in Timor-Leste, meaning foreigners could set up companies here and through their majority controlling shareholdings purchase large swathes of land at vastly discounted values.

'The major productive asset of most families, land, would potentially be ripe for exploitation by international speculators as nearly all East Timorese have little experience in land valuation, and being desperate for cash, would be vulnerable to unfair deals. This would lead to the displacement of many people and exacerbate social tensions and inequality.'

The press release continued to account a recent history of foreign land grants in East Timor and said that the draft law demonstrates the AMP government’s willingness to put the interests of powerful interest groups ahead of vulnerable East Timorese citizens.

According to Fretilin, last year, 'the current Minister for Agriculture Mariano Sabino agreed to hand over 100,000 hectares of scarce agricultural land to an Indonesian company for use as a sugar-cane plantation.

This deal was followed by the Secretary of State for Energy Policy Avelinho Coelho signing a contract with the Australian-based biofuel company Enviroenergy Developments Australia for Jatropha development on 59 hectares of prime agricultural land at Baucau.

Both deals were signed at a time of sky rocketing food prices and despite clear evidence that the projects were highly polluting and severely damaged Timor-Leste’s capacity to become self sufficient in food production.'

But a closer examination of the draft land law poses some more fundamental issues.

The following provision is in the East Timor Draft Land Law 2009:

Article 11 (Foreigners)
1. Properties whose previous right holder is a foreign claimants revert to the State, unless there is special adverse possession.
2. The State shall grant usufruct to foreign holders of previous rights who maintain the current possession of a property that has reverted to the State's private domain.
3. The usufruct referred to in the above number is automatically re-granted in favor of the heirs and legatees of the usufruct holder (upon the death of the grantee).

The constitutional prohibition on land ownership in East Timor does not mean that foreigners can not gain any land rights. There is a similar provision in the Indonesian constitution. Such a provision is usually interpreted to mean that foreigners may not hold the fullest rights in land that exist in the jurisdiction that prohibits such ownership. Lesser rights such as lease - or, in the case of Indonesia - the right of use (hak pakai) - are created and granted for the purposes of foreign investment.

As the elucidation of Articles 41 and 42 the Indonesian Basic Agrarian Law of 1960 (which is presently part of the applicable land law in East Timor),

Hak pakai (right of use) is the 'collective definition' of the rights which are known in land law by different names, all of which --with slight differences due to differences in circumstances amongst regions-- provide the holder with powers as meant in this article. In the context of simplification as described in the General Elucidation, the new agrarian law uses the same term (i.e. hak pakai) to refer to these rights.

Foreign embassies can be granted with a hak pakai because this right can be valid for as long as the land is used for that purpose.

Foreign individuals and foreign corporate bodies can be granted with a hak pakai because this right only provides limited powers.

Prohibiting access to land by foreign entities is not a policy that exists in legal systems whose economy is based on the principles of capitalism. Land - and secure rights on land - are indispensable preconditions for foreign investment. Foreign investment - in the absence of an economy that is capable of existing without it - is crucial for poverty alleviation and eradication goals as well as general economic and social development.

To argue that foreigners should have no access to land in a developing country's legal and economic system is to argue that country into perpetual poverty, political instability (unless the state is strengthened to suppress dissent) and international isolation.

The draft land law does this by actually inhibiting foreign access to land by restricting the right which a foreign entity may hold to a mere usufructuary right - one of the most primitive forms of land right - and one that is totally useless for international capital because it will not be transferrable (if it is, it will probably require state consent) and, most importantly, it can not be used as collateral for loans from financial institutions. Such a situation will smother foreign investment and contribute to the exacerbation of East Timor's many social and economic woes.

It is extraordinary that such a critical matter should be regulated in the way proposed by the draft land law and that only a short provision exists in a land law that is supposed to be directed to more fundamental determination of land ownership issues and the resolution of disputes over land in East Timor.

It is even more extraordinary that any policy maker or legislative drafter could conceive of such an inadequate and, in the end, detrimental, regulation of the critical issue of foreign land ownership in East Timor.

Draft law opens door to foreign ownership of land in East Timor



20 July 2009 Media Release

Draft law opens door to foreign ownership of land

The Gusmao–led AMP government’s consultation process on the draft land law is woefully inadequate and the law itself would open the door to foreign ownership and control of land, former Prime Minister and FRETILIN MP Estanislau Da Silva warned today.

Da Silva said the government’s brief and tokenistic public consultations would heighten community tensions and mistrust.

“This is the most important piece of legislation since Timor-Leste regained its independence in 2002 but many people will not understand or be prepared for the great impact the law will have on their lives,” he said.

“The law is supposed to resolve land disputes and issue the first set of ownership rights to East Timorese citizens.

“But the first two public consultations held in Manatuto on 6 July and in Baucau the following day provided little opportunity for the community to ask questions and voice their concerns.

“According to media releases issued by Land Network, a group of 20 national and international NGOs, the people of Manatuto were only allowed 59 minutes to ask questions and in Baucau, participants got just 90 minutes to ask questions.

”Land Network complained that the Minister for Justice Lucia Lobato has been misleading the people on the length of the consultation process, which will last for 11 weeks only.

“This law requires a much longer period of effective grassroots consultation, particularly considering that half the population is illiterate, most people earn less than a dollar a day and that land is the only real productive and valuable asset which continues to provide livelihoods to East Timorese citizens.

“The government’s consultation process is farcical and inadequate and makes a mockery of the rights of East Timorese citizens.”

Da Silva warned the law as currently drafted would open the door to foreign ownership and control of land in Timor-Leste.

“According to the draft, a company wishing to own land in Timor-Leste only needs to have its head office in Timor-Leste, meaning foreigners could set up companies here and through their majority controlling shareholdings purchase large swathes of land at vastly discounted values.

“The major productive asset of most families, land, would potentially be ripe for exploitation by international speculators as nearly all East Timorese have little experience in land valuation, and being desperate for cash, would be vulnerable to unfair deals.

“This would lead to the displacement of many people and exacerbate social tensions and inequality.”

Da Silva said the draft law again demonstrated the AMP government’s willingness to put the interests of powerful interest groups ahead of vulnerable East Timorese citizens.

“Last year, the current Minister for Agriculture Mariano Sabino agreed to hand over 100,000 hectares of scarce agricultural land to an Indonesian company for use as a sugar-cane plantation.

“This deal was followed by the Secretary of State for Energy Policy Avelinho Coelho signing a contract with the Australian-based biofuel company Enviroenergy Developments Australia for Jatropha development on 59 hectares of prime agricultural land at Baucau.

“Both deals were signed at a time of sky rocketing food prices and despite clear evidence that the projects were highly polluting and severely damaged Timor-Leste’s capacity to become self sufficient in food production.”

For more information, please contact Estanislau Da Silva on +670 733 5062

An unofficial translation of the draft land law is available in English at http://www.sprtl.tl/docs/Land_Law_Draft_English_June09.pdf

20 July 2009

Government intervenes in land dispute in Suco Bahalara-ua'in (Buikarin), Viqueque

East Timor Ministry of Social Solidarity: Community Dialogue in Suco Bahalara-ua'in

MINISTRY OF SOCIAL SOLIDARITY PRESS RELEASE 5 March 2009 Community Dialogue in Suco Bahalara-ua’in - On 28 February 2009, the MSS/UNDP Dialogue teams organised a community dialogue in Suco Bahalara-ua’in (Buikarin), Viqueque. The dialogue was held in the form of a Nahe Biti Bo’ot or ‘stretching of the big mat’ conflict resolution ceremony in order to attempt to resolve a conflict that broke out in January 2009.

In early January, 118 families fled their homes in Suco Bahalara-ua’in to a church in Viqueque town as a result of a fighting between members of rival martial arts groups. The conflict has its roots in a dispute that arose in 1974 and was exacerbated by the Indonesian occupation as the four aldeias in the suco aligned themselves along ‘pro-independence’ and ‘pro-integration’ lines.

The Government reacted quickly to the January 2009 conflict to ensure the 118 families could return to their homes, and thus avoid the possibility of another long-term IDP displacement crisis. The day after the confrontation, the Minister of State Administration, the Secretary of State for Social Assistance and Natural Disasters, and the Secretary of State for Defence, [BML1] travelled to Suco Bahalara-ua’in to try to resolve the dispute. At the request of the Prime Minister, and under the leadership of F-FDTL’s Major Ular the MSS/UNDP Baucau dialogue team had held a number of preparatory dialogues with the community over the preceding two months, who decided they wanted to try and achieve reconciliation through a Nahe Biti Bo’ot ceremony.

The 28 February 2009 also benefited from high level participation, including the attendance of five Secretaries of State, the Deputy Provedor, Major Ular, and the Deputy Commander of the PNTL. Major Ular, appealed to the people of Suco Bahalara-ua’in “to lay the fighting to rest, to stop passing down the problems from generation to generation so that we can move forward together as one people.”

The Secretary of State for Social Assistance and Natural Disasters, Jacinto Rigoberto Gomes, thanked the people of Suco Bahalara-ua’in for participating in the dialogue process and narrating the history of the suco in an attempt to resolve the conflict in peace. He explained “only by resolving these localised conflicts will we be able to move forward and develop our nation. This government has been working hard to give meaning to our country’s independence. When the people can live peacefully together, other aspects of the country’s development will also improve.” He appealed to the people of Suco Bahlara-ua’in to try to resolve future disputes in a peaceful manner or to bring them to the local authorities or relevant institutions to try to resolve.

During the dialogue, youth representatives of three martial arts groups in Suco Bahlara-ua’in were asked to come forward and sign a document agreeing not to fight each other again. At the end of the Nahe Biti Bo’ot ceremony, community representatives also signed an agreement that the conflict was over. Those who participated believe that to go against the proclaimed outcomes of a nahe biti ceremony is to anger the spirits and to bring bad luck and ill health upon the perpetrator and their family. One of the Lia Nain (keepers of the word) explained “what happened in 1975, 1999 and earlier this year is over. It has been resolved by adat (custom). Now is the time for us to move forward.”

Maukali land dispute heard by Baucau District Court May 2009

From JSMP's English translation of the report on Hearings Conducted in the Baucau District Court May 2009

Baucau, 11/5

On 11/5 a hearing was conducted relating to a land dispute in the region of Maukali, Gariwai, Baucau involving the respondent PF and the plaintiffs F and others. The hearing took almost five hours (14.30-19.30). It took so long because the court had to hear testimony from six witnesses (3 from each side) to finish the case.

After hearing witness testimony, the court finally declared that there was sufficient evidence and asked each of the lawyers to make their final recommendations orally.

The lawyer for the respondent, Dra. Muzariah S.H., stated that none of the witnesses presented by the plaintiff had told the court that they knew about the document that was signed by the two parties (plaintiff and respondent) in relation to the land being disputed. The witnesses also stated that they did not know the history about who had originally started working the piece of land under dispute.

The lawyer for the respondent also added that one of the witnesses presented by the respondent, namely the former village chief during the Indonesian period had stated that he had good knowledge about the history of this piece of land, because a dispute had been taken to the village authorities in 1993 and 1995 and at that time the parties agreed to enter a written agreement that had been signed by them in front of the village authorities.

The lawyer also quoted the testimony of the witness who had said that “the contents of the agreement were that the plaintiff could only make use of the existing plants on the aforementioned piece of land, but could not plant anything else in the aforementioned field”.

Finally the lawyer for the respondent requested for the panel of judges to decide the case in good conscience and in the interests of justice.

The lawyer for the plaintiff said that during the trial none of the witnesses from either side could provide complete and accurate testimony. Each of them was only able to vaguely mention a part of the story relating to the land under dispute. Therefore the lawyer asked the panel of judges to decide the case impartially and honestly so that all parties could accept the court's decision in good faith.

18 July 2009

Custom and conflict: The uses and limitations of traditional systems in addressing rural land disputes in East Timor

Custom and conflict: The uses and limitations of traditional systems in addressing rural land disputes in East Timor A discussion paper prepared for a regional workshop on “Land Policy and Administration for Pro-Poor Rural Growth”, Dili, December 2003 By Laura S. Meitzner Yoder
With research assistance from Calisto Colo , Zacarias F. da Costa , and Francisco Soares September 2003


A dynamic background of customary land ownership and recent migrations, overlaid with successive political transitions, are behind many land conflicts in the new nation of East Timor. Some of the forms of land claims and authorities in regions which have experienced migration or formal land schemes replicate customary patterns.

Almost all rural land disputes in East Timor are taken first to traditional leaders and village-level government, and handled by outside authorities only when these mechanisms do not reach settlement. Rural people have a clear preference to settle land cases at the lowest level possible, due to proximity to physical evidence and local expertise in circumstances surrounding the case.

Disputants take their cases to traditional authorities, who hear testimony from disputants and witnesses, consider evidence, observe the disputed land, facilitate and legitimize decisions, and oversee a reconciliation ceremony if the case is resolved. Methods of settlement range from arbitration to mediation.

Cases involving parties from different villages, conflicting customary claims, political differences, and the private sector are frequently deferred or taken to outside authorities, including the Directorate of Land and Property or courts.

Even in conflicts surrounding titled land, abandoned properties, migration, state claims, and government administrative boundaries that require state involvement, traditional and village leaders often participate at all levels of settlement as witnesses and counselors.

Many traditional authorities and government officials are expectant that future land laws will clarify decision-making authority in intractable land disputes and will assist them in settling rural land disputes.

Executive Eviction of Suara Timor Lorosae by Fretilin Government

Suara Timor Lorosae's background on eviction from the building

Dear friends,

Here I attach the background of the eviction of the house of newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae, the leading and biggest newspaper in the country.

Thank you.

Salvador J. Ximenes Soares Publisher and Editor in Chief Suara Timor Lorosae Mobile : + 670-724777 ; 62-816822775

Background of the eviction of the newspaper Suara Timor Timur from the building

Dear friends,

The newspaper Suara Timor Lorosae received an eviction notice from the Land and Property Office on April 18, 2005. This stated that the government has decided to not extend any more time to the newspaper to use the building, and ordered an immediate eviction. This letter was a response to our letter to the Minister of Justice requesting a 6 month extension to enable the newspaper to find a new location and to construct a printing house in new site. The reason specified for the eviction notice was that Government is intending to use the building soon. However we believe the government's decision reflects their desire to make the newspaper unviable, such that it is forced to close down.

Taking this into consideration we have made the decision to nevertheless keep the newspaper running.

I. Immediate action taken

1. In view of the eviction, our top priority was to rent a house as a newsroom. Newsroom activities moved to this rented house on April 19, the day after receipt of the eviction notice.

2. The house has no land line. Internet access will be at internet cafes. This is also affected STL on line version that stop for while.

3. STL has started building a provisional building; the smaller Kumori printing machine, that will print the newspaper with small format, has already been dismantled and moved to the new location for reinstallation in the very near future. In the interim we are contracting the printing of the newspaper to a printing company.

4. We are proud that to inform you that Suara Timor Lorosae was able to continue publishing, without even a single day's break.

5. The web printing machine is being dismantled and put into a container, waiting for construction of a building to house it. This will take 4 months.

6. All equipment has been moved to the two new locations - a rented house and the new building that is under construction as a printing house in STL's own land in Surikmas - Fatumeta, Dili. STL bought this land (3,000m2) in 2003, after it first started receiving threats of eviction in 2003.

7. We have submitted applications to connect a land line phone and electricity to the new site.

8. Circulation will function at new site under emergency roof.

9. Finance, Advertising and other departments will operate along with the news department in the rented house.

II. Short term plans

1. Build a small provisional building for the Kumori printing machine at the newspaper's own land in Surikmas, and install the machine there. This will take 10 days. Hopefully after that the newspaper will print using its own printing machine, though still in tabloid format.

2. Speed up the construction of a permanent printing house at this Surikmas site. This building, with a size of 24 x 12 meters, is supported by the Finish Government.

3. Look for additional funds to enable the addition of a second storey to this building. For this, an additional $15,805 is required (see the breakdown of budget). The second storey would allow only the news room.

4. Place for Management including circulation, advertising and administration departments building will construct a provisional house.

5. We hope that by the first week of August 2005 the building will be ready for use and all department of newspaper will accommodate in the new compound of newspaper.

III. Medium Term Plans

Look for funds for the construction of a management building. This requires around $35,000. Our plan is for a building of 24 x 6 metres, situated beside the printing house and newsroom. For a breakdown of the budget see the attachment.

Dear Friends and colleagues

Regarding the decision of the Government, a lot of friends are questioning why Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and his government are apparently very angry with the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper.

Firstly let me explain a few measures taken by Mari Alkatiri and his government, as follows:

1. Suara Timor Lorosae was given 60 days to vacate the current building used by STL to publish the newspaper. This order has no basis as the building has been used by STL since the Indonesian period, beginning in 1993. In 1999, Indonesian military backed militia totally destroyed the building, along with all equipment, including a Heidelberg printing machine which had been given by The Asia Foundation and USAID. In 2000 STL rehabilitated the building, and on 30 July 2000 STL was able to print the first edition again.

2. All government departments and other government officials are banned from receiving or giving interviews to STL journalists. This edict was displayed on the walls of government offices. STL journalists are also banned from carrying out journalistic work in the national hospital, which is the only public hospital in Dili.

3. All government institutions (offices), whether national or in the districts, are forbidden from subscribing to STL.

4. All government institutions (offices) are banned from advertising in STL.

5. Direct pressure from Mari, and expulsion of journalists in public, are things experienced by STL at this stage.

6. Besides these pressures, there are efforts from the government to destroy STL from inside by approaching certain STL journalists to persuade them to leave the newspaper and join another group of businessmen and government officers to establish a new newspaper Diario, which is linked to the weekly Portuguese-language paper Seminario. These approaches to STL journalists were carried out directly by Mari Alkatiri over the telephone. In addition, some ministers and businessmen approached the journalists by setting up meetings face-to-face to persuade the journalists to join. These efforts until now are still not successful and hopefully will not succeed in the future.

The background of the Mari Alkatiri government's anger towards STL can be explained as follows:

1. Perhaps Mari's aversion can be dated back to before East Timor's independence, but this is uncertain. In the Indonesian period, Pemuda Pancasila (a youth group close to Soeharto), has an East Timor branch led by Mari's young brother Ahmad Akatiri. He, with the support of military, entered the STL office, destroying computers, television, and other equipment in the editorial office in December 1994. This event was widely published, and Ahmad had to repay all equipment destroyed and to advertise his apologies in the newspaper Kompas.

2. After independence, the Prime Minister and his ruling party found that the only media in East Timor which they could not control for their purposes is STL. Protests and threats have been conveyed to STL by Mari many times before he became PM. These included threatening to close STL, and accusing STL of being a spokesperson for the opposition.

3. In September 2003, after STL published news about people questioning Mari Alkatiri's citizenship, and about the eviction of Mario Carrascalao from his house, etc., Mari again threatened STL by ordering the Land and Property Unit to evict STL from the current building within 30 days. We sent a letter in response to this very repugnant policy, but there has never been any answer from the government, until the second eviction letter arrived in February 2005.

4. This political pressure intensified after the local authority elections last year in 2004, in which Fretilin lost in some districts. Due to STL's publication of this fact, the PM called the Deputy Chief Editor to express his anger and threaten to close down the newspaper. On 25 October 2004 he call to the newspaper complaining that his statement specifically address to opposition parliament member not all members. He request to make correction and threat the newspaper. His office letter of correction.

5. In 6 December 2004, STL publish statement of Inpector General saying that many corruption cases was interfere by PM Alkatiri and it is difficult to combat against corruption and collusion. PM Alkatiri was angry and call to Deputy Chief Editor to complaining on that.

6. In 6 January 2005, STL published news about Mari Alkatiri's criticism towards the opposition, and in the same edition STL also published the opposition's response to Mari and put their photo in the front page. Mari was very angry and he called the Deputy Chief Editor Domingos Saldanha to appear before him. On that occasion, he threw the newspaper to Domingos and threatened STL by saying STL had been excessive in its news and that one day he would close the STL as he has authority to do so. Two times he calls to Domingos and made tree time correction by his office.

7. In 7 February 2005, STL reported about 53 peoples died in the sub-district of Hatubuiliko. Pm was angry call to Deputy that he is not happy with the report and threaten again to close the newspaper.

8. In 10 February 2005, when STL reported about the hunger in almost all districts in East Timor, Mari was very irritated with the reports and he called Domingos saying he would take necessary measures against STL. He also accusing STL is made autonomy campaign.

9. Three days later STL received a letter from the Land and Property Unit, which gave an ultimatum to STL to vacate the building within 60 days.

12. There are systematic efforts to close STL but it seems that they have not found the way to do so.

10. The other reason why Mari and his government are using systematic methods to close STL is that STL in their view is the only media which does not serve their interests. Furthermore the national election is approaching (in 2007); they (the ruling party) feel that STL will be a threat to their interests.

11. We had sent a letter to Land and Property Unit on February 2005, to request a much longer time (6 months) in the current building, so that we could find funds for construction of new buildings. The response was only received on 19 April 2005, which was the deadline given for departure from the building. In this letter, the government stated that they would not extend any more time to STL.

It seems the government expected STL to close, but it miscalculated, because even in this emergency situation we are still printing the newspaper.

Under Indonesian administration military destroyed the office, bur rent down car, beaten journalist and pressure to withdraw Publisher and Editor in Chief from Indonesian parliament (DPR) but never order newspaper to live the house.

That is the price of free and independent newspaper.

According to words of Bishop Dili Mgr. Alberto Ricardo Mari's Government it seems introduce dictatorship to this newly country. Try to shutdown newspaper, no license for demonstrations, sensitive to critics and band not publish about hunger.

We would really appreciate if friends could help us in this difficult time. We particularly need the support of media partners now that democracy and freedom of the press are under threat in this new nation of East Timor.

Thank you very much,

Dili, April 20, 2005

Salvador J. Ximenes Soares Publisher and Editor in Chief

Watu Lari Land Dispute Media Reports

Uartu Lari Land Dispute 7 September 2004 Timor Post The newspaper reports that the Office of President, Xanana Gusmao said that a letter was recieved from the head of the village of Tebabui, sub-district of Bobonaro, about complaints over five PNTL members in that area.

According to the newspaper report in the four-page letter, the leader of the community, Vicente da Cruz, said that four members of PNTL and their commander stationed in that area beat nine members of that village.

Mr da Cruz described the incident in detail in the letter, and a copy was also sent to the National Parliament, to the National Police Commissioner, Paulo Martin, and the Minister of Interior, Rogirio Lobato.

Meanwhile the Police Commissioner Paulo de Fatima Martins said, "If it is proven that those police officers have acted wrongly and violently against members of the community, strict measures will be taken against them."

The incident was caused by a land dispute when members of Lora community occupied a piece of land that belongs to Tebabui on August 13.

Land Dispute in Uato Lari Settled Suara Timor Lorosae 26/02/2001 The long-drawn land dispute in Uato Lari sub-district in Viqueque involving prime paddy land was solved peacefully yesterday. The dispute involved Henrique de Carvalho, the Chefi Suco of Afaloikai and Mateus Amaral also from Afaloikai.

Both parties signed a memorandum of understanding at the Uato Lari Church. Arbitration in the land dispute was carried out by the Uato Lari Mediation Team and CNRT. On the other hand, the Land and Property section of UNTAET, together with CivPol and Yayasan Hak were observers.

Deadlock Broken in Viqueque Land Dispute 23/02/01 http://www.un.org/peace/etimor/DB/Db230201.htmAn historic agreement will be signed tomorrow, 24 February, between two groups involved in a long and complex land dispute in Uato Lari sub-district, Viqueque district. The signing marks the starting point of a reconciliation process aiming at ending the dispute, which dates back to the 1940s.

The disputed land is an area approximately the size of Dili, ideal for rice cultivation. The two conflicting groups are occupying two separate parts of the land and are both laying claims to the entire area.

The conflict stems from political and cultural rivalries between two ethnic groups, the Makassae and Naweti. While the agreement is a community based initiative, UNTAET’ Land and Property Department plays an important part as observers and advisers.

The reconciliation process was initiated by representatives from East Timorese human rights NGO Yayasan HAK and the Justice and Peace Commission.

16/09/2003 Minister of Justice: Government Will Confiscate All Identified Assets

16/09/2003 Suara Timor Lorosa'e, Timor Post The Minister of Justice, Domingos Sarmento said on Monday, that the government has been identifying all its assets and that people who refuse to follow the notifications issued by the government, will be evicted, "regardless of which political affiliation they belong to".

Sarmento pointed out to the case of Mario Viegas Carrascalao who was evicted from the house he was living; the property had been identified as belonging to the State. He also pointed out the case of Santina Quentino, coordinator of Fretilin's Central Committee (CCF), who was evicted last week from a house belonging to the State, for having refused to follow instructions issued by the Land and Property Department.

He noted that the media had been impartial in their reports on Mario Carrascalao eviction, reported STL.

2004 Executive Eviction of Mario Viegas Carrascalao by Fretilin Government

Executive Eviciton of President of the Social Democratic Party Mario Viegas Carrascalao Suara Timor Loro Sa'e 09/09/2004 The Prime Minister, Dr Mari Alkatiri, said that the government will not withdraw its decision on the house that used to be occupied by Eng Mario Viegas Carrascalco, the Timor-Leste former governor during the Indonesian times, and that it cannot be interfered with by anybody.

The Prime Minister said that the court can make any decision they wish, but the government's decision cannot be interfered. (Decision taken by the Government to evicted the former governor out of the residence in Farol).

The newspaper reports that the house is currently being rehabilitated for government use, even though is it under legal dispute in Dili District Court. Meanwhile the Deputy Director of Legal Assistance Foundation Liberta, Benevides Correia Barros, said that while a house or land is in dispute or seized, it should not be occupied and rehabilitated until a final court's decision. He said that legally, before a court makes a final decision, nobody is allowed to occupy or have the rights over a house.

Government Failed to Evict Mario Carrascalao 21/07/2003 Timor Post, TVTL The Government failed to evict Mario Viegas Carrascalao from his house in Farol on Friday, reported Timor Post on its front page on Saturday. According to TP the Department of Justice claims that Carrascalão failed to submit requested documents within a period of time as specified by the government to remain in the house identified as belonging to the State.

According to the media a temporary agreement was reached by telephone between Minister of Justice Domingos Sarmento and Carrascalão to remain in the house. Meanwhile Carrascalao said that he submitted a letter with four proposals to the government but had not received a reply and instead was faced with the eviction. He said he would take the matter to the court and will obey whatever the court rules.

Former Governor Evicted 30/07/2003 The Sydney Morning Herald reports that in Dili, East Timorese police have evicted the President of the Social Democrat Party and former governor under the Indonesian occupation, Mario Carrascalao. Mr Carrascalao had lived in the property as his home for 22 years. Mr Carrascalao described the Government's action as an act of political persecution.

The Government had abandoned a previous attempt to evict the 66 year old veteran of East Timorese politics after negotiations with the Department of Justice Land and Property Directorat. He failed, however, to prevent the latest heavy-handed actions of the Government.

Mr Carrascalao's house was surrounded by 50 policemen at dawn on 28 July and a crowd of angry supporters soon gathered. But the property was sealed by police, forcing Mr Carrascalao to leave several hours later.

The eviction order was issued by the Land and Property Directorate of the Department of Justice on the grounds that the Indonesian Government had expropriated the house from its original Portuguese owner after the 1975 invasion.

Justice Minister Comments on Carrascalao Eviction 23/07/2006The Minister of Justice, Mr Domingos Sarmento, yesterday said that law is paramount and every one should obey it, including Mr Mario Carrascalao. He said Mr Carrascalao should abide by the Law of Land and Property. (This is a continuation of a series of reports on Mr Mario Carrascalao's case whereby Mr Carrascalao is fighting what he says is an unfair eviction).

Carrascalao Threatens to Leave East Timor if Government Proceeds with Eviction Suara Timor Lorosa'e 22/07/2003 - Suara Timor Lorosae reported that the President of the Social Democratic Party, Mr Mario Viegas Carrascalao, yesterday said that he would leave Timor-Leste if the Government evicted him from his home.

"I will leave Timor-Leste if the Government evict me, I don't have money to build a new house. For me it doesn't a matter to live in Timor-Leste or abroad, but what I am thinking is about the ordinary people if they are evicted where do they go?" said Mr Carrascalao. Mr Carrascalao said that he will abide by the Court's decision regarding the status of the house he is living in; ie whether it belongs to the State or is a private home.

The Case of Carrascalao's House: More Political Than Legal Suara Timor Lorosa'e 22/07/2003 The Director of East Timor Study Group said on Monday that the attempt to evict Mario Carrascalao from the house where he lives is more of a political than legal case. Joao Saldanha argued that the situation is a test case for the Government, adding that the government is applying the eviction starting with its opposition.

17 July 2009

10/12/2005 Baucau Land Dispute

Media Monitoring 10-12 December 2005 TVTL reported on Friday that some 25 students have temporarily stopped going to their schools and moved to the military camp in Baucau, due to a land dispute problem between the villages of Bahu and Buibau, in Baucau.

These students originally come from Bahu village and are unable to attend school because they were reportedly being threatened by the people from the village of Buibau.

Raimundo Xavier Lakuani, spokesperson for the Internal Displaced People, at the military camp in Baucau reportedly told journalists that PNTL Baucau District Commander was not neutral in this issue because he was alleged to have backed the villagers from Buibau.

Lakuani further alleged that Baucau District Coordinator of FRETILIN party, Joao Capristao (Ajino) also involved. He appealed to the leaders to find the solution to enable their return to their homes.

28/03/2005 Indonesia Claims on Land and Property in Timor-Leste

Indonesia's claim on assets frustrates MP's 28/03/2005 Suara Timor Lorosa'e - Political figures claim demands by the Indonesian government for their assets in Timor-Leste are considered to be inconsistent with the friendly relationship that has been pursued by both governments since Timor-Leste's independence in 1999.

Member of Parliament from ASDT Feliciano Alves Fatima speaking to STL said that the two governments should start from a 'zero option' basis meaning that neither government demands anything from the other. He said that the continued hold on this demand for assets has the potential to negatively affect the future relationship between the two countries.

Alexandre Cortereal from UDT party also expressed his frustration, saying that it was the Indonesian military and its militia who destroyed the assets, therefore Timor-Leste has no assets to return. He expressed his opinion that a more worthy matter to pursue is that of the fate of former Indonesian civil servants.

Indonesian team in East Timor in bid to reclaim assets Kyodo June 26, 2000 Tim Johnson - DILI, East Timor, Indonesian team arrived in East Timor on Monday to look into the prospect of reclaiming privately held assets that were not destroyed after the Aug. 30 vote for independence, a U.N. spokeswoman said Monday.

Barbara Reis, spokeswoman for the U.N. Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), told reporters the team will 'look into facilities and equipment the Indonesian team believes belong to their companies.'She said the 10-member team, which includes representatives of private corporations, will review the condition of buildings their companies owned and compile a list for future negotiations.

After the results of the U.N.-organized referendum were announced, vengeful anti-independence militias, many organized and backed by the Indonesian military, systematically looted and burned most of the territory's buildings. Public buildings were specifically targeted, apparently with a view to leaving nothing of potential benefit behind that Indonesia built for East Timor during its 24-year occupation.

The field review was agreed to by UNTAET and the Indonesian side at a May 25 round of negotiations in Yogyakarta, Central Java. Reis said the Indonesian side wanted to see for themselves the actual condition of the buildings in question, rather than simply relying on UNTAET descriptions.

'We are talking mainly about private buildings,' she said, adding UNTAET's claim to public property inherited from Indonesia is not much in dispute.

Indonesia says the assets in question include those of telecommunications firm Telkom, state electricity supplier PLN, government and private banks and the state oil monopoly Pertamina. It says there is also the issue of privately owned land left behind by Indonesians after the poll.

As part of the process of normalizing relations between East Timor and Indonesia, the sides are also negotiating the transfer of public archives and records pertaining to East Timor, the payment of former Indonesian civil servants' pensions and the status of East Timorese refugees in Indonesia's West Timor.

Other issues include formation of a joint border commission, land border demarcation, establishing a transit corridor between the Oecussi enclave in West Timor and the rest of East Timor, and maritime delimitation.

East Timor Embassy in Jakarta Receives 6000 Land Claims from Indonesian Citizens Suara Timor Lorosa’e 08 July 2004 page 4 Jakarta – East Timor continues to its efforts to resolve the issue of assets owned by Indonesian citizens and corporations in the country. At least 6000 individual claims have been received at the East Timor embassy in Jakarta.

This was reported by the Foreign Affairs Minister of East Timor, Ramos Horta, to reporters gathered at the bilateral meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister, Hassan Wirajuda at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Pejambon Street, Jakarta on Wednesday (30 June 2004).

Horta explained that this issue was already discussed between the Republic of Indonesia and East Timor over the last 2 years. A number of steps have been taken including discussions on legislation in relation to this problem by the National Parliament of East Timor. “We are also now identifying these claims to check their veracity. We are working together with Indonesia to find a solution that is just to this problem. We want this problem to be resolved with good outcomes for both sides” said Horta.

Acknowledging that a final solution has not yet been found, Horta said that East Timor will continue to increase discussion of this problem; including the possibility of asking for the involvement of the international community.

“We view this matter in a constructive manner and from the humanitarian perspective. We have lost a lot of money and other assets. I believe that the involvement of the international community can help those who have lost money and assets” added Horta. Translation by wlwright dili 25 august 2004

Pertamina to continue operations in East Timor JAKARTA, June 3 (AFX-ASIA) - Pertamina will maintain its assets and operations in East Timor to meet the country's energy needs, the Antara news agency reported, citing Pertamina president director Baihaki Hakim.

"Pertamina will continue to operate in East Timor and its storage facilities in Dili will function as usual," Hakim said, adding that Pertamina's assets in East Timor were valued at 3.2 mln usd.

Pertamina distributes 60,000 kilolitres of oil in East Timor per month.

"Pertamina's presence in East Timor is profitable and therefore, the government does not want us to pull out from there," he said.

Hakim said most Pertamina employees in East Timor were Indonesian citizens and only 20 were East Timorese. He did not give a number for the total number of Pertamina employees in East Timor.

MP Guterres: Indonesians have lost their rights over assets (Timor Post, STL) MP Eusebio Guterres claims that Indonesians no longer have any right to reclaim their assets in Timor-Leste. Guterres says that according to Timor-Leste’s constitution, private and company assets belonging to Indonesians and Portuguese individuals are now under the ownership of the state. MP Guterres is urging Timor-Leste’s government to enforce the existing law.

He said the deadline for Indonesians to reclaim any assets or property ended on 10 March 2004. However, he concluded by saying that private assets could legally be reclaimed through a court process and based on paragraph 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, MP Leandro Isaac expressed similar sentiments, arguing that if the Indonesian government wants to reclaim their assets then Timor-Leste should do the same.

21/03/2005 Makeshift shelters pulled down in Dili

Makeshift shelters pulled down in Dili 21/03/2005 Suara Timor Lorosa'e- Approximately 100 makeshift shelters erected by vendors along the Coconut Beach Road were pulled down last Friday following orders from the Dili District Administration.

The operation was carried out by officers from the Dili District Sanitation Department and involved the national police.

Vendors interviewed by STL expressed their disappointment at the government action, as they have not been assigned any other place to sell their goods. Some said that if the government continues to limit their options in making a living, then it is the same as leaving them and their families to starve.

Dili District Administrator Ruben Braz de Carvalho said that the shelters spoiled the attractiveness and cleanliness of the city. According to Carvalho, more of these actions are planned for other makeshift shelters in Dili.

Approximately 20 of the vendors took their case to the National Parliament on Friday, upset and angry by the actions of the Dili District Administration. Speaking of the current economic situation as critical, the vendors said that destroying their shelters by putting holes in their tin and canvas roofs was inconsiderate. Member of Parliament from Commission A, Vicente Faria, said that the Parliament would speak to the Dili District Administration regarding the case.

Note: Administrative evictions in Timor-Leste are effected under section 8 of Law No 1 of 2003 Juridical Regime of Real Estate Part 1 - Ownership of Immovable Property (pdf file)

Image: Map showing Dili District and Sub-Districts, Timor-Leste